Though his son, Hemant Soren, 39, is the chief minister and the most promising young face of the party, Sibu Soren,70, facing poor health condition still remains the biggest crowd puller for Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) whose real fight would be with the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the BJP’s star campaigner.
The impact of advancing age on Sibu, popularly known as Dishom Guru (Guru of World) or Guruji can be witnessed in his routine activities.
He sometimes seems to be enjoying the bliss of forgetfulness even during public meetings and in the parliament too. Sometimes he bewilders the listeners.
Insiders in the party informed that he is under the treatment of a reputed doctor from Bangalore where he often flies for a proper medical check-up. However, no one in the JMM exactly knows what disease he is suffering from.
JMM spokesperson, Binod Pandey told Hindustan Times that Guruji would address about 300 public meetings during the assembly elections.
“I will personally be with Guruji during all the 300 meetings. I will take care of him. Though he has grown old, he remains our hero. There is no any major health problem with him,” he said.
The JMM, which has ruled the state under separate alliances with both the national parties- the BJP and the Congress-- is banking heavily on Sibu's charisma , especially among the Santhal tribal masses. Around 26.3 % Jharkhand's population are tribals.
There are several tribal pockets in north Jharkhand where Sibu's allure reigns supreme. People would wait for hours at the venues of election rallies to catch a glimpse of him, kiss his hands, and bless him. Few innocent ones would even come with a fistful of rice or a Rs. 10 note to give him as contribution for his election expenses.
This election Sibu would not only have to compete with Modi but other strong opponents like Amit Saha, the Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi and Congress’s vice-president, Rahul Gandhi.
Many trusted lieutenants of Sibu like Simon Marandi and Hemlal Murmu, have left the party. In Sibu's absence, they used to manage the crowds. Leading the campaigning in all the 81 seats JMM is fighting is now on the shoulders of the two Sorens.
Sibu said in a public meeting at Shikaripara assembly segment on Sunday that he had given Jharkhand to the people. The aspirations of people were yet to be fulfilled.
The Modi wave during the Lok Sabha elections could not damage Sibu in his home turf, Dumka from where he won election again.
During 2009 Lok Sabha elections he was facing serious health condition. He did not campaign for a single day. He still won.
“His fight with the moneylenders during the 70s and 80s made him Dishom Guru. He saved the property and civic rights of the tribals, especially in the Santhal Parganas region in north Jharkhand. People have still faith on him,” said Stephen Marandi, the former deputy chief minister.
During his long political career Sibu had to face charges of taking bribery to save the Congress government at the center, massacre at Chirudih, Jamtara district in 1975 and murder of his private secretary, Shashinath Jha. The courts have acquitted him of massacre and murder cases.
During his public addresses Sibu never recall these charges. He said his dream was to see Jharkhand a developed state. “There should not be any controversy of Moolnivasi (insiders) or the Bahari (outsiders). Those who live in Jharkhand are Jharkhandi,” he added.
The JMM spokesperson said that the party had made all preparations to counter the opponents. “The vast knowledge of Guruji about Jharkhand and the youth leadership of Hemant Soren would make use victorious,” he claimed.